Author Feature: Fred Nolan
Fred Nolan was born in Pennsylvania and has hazy recollections of Erie, Atlanta, Denver and a small, wooded development north of Houston. By age 15 he settled in Dallas, where he has worked with a commercial subcontractor for 24 years. Empty Oaks Magazine (RIP) published his first short story in 2015. Emery Press Books published his debut novel, Alexei and the Second Empress, in November 2018.
Where to Find Him:
Alexei and the Second Empress
These are the final days of the tsars and Alexei Shafirov, an infirm skeptic, is bedridden after a fall. Throughout the long recovery his loved ones speak to him of fables, uprisings and a royal family under house detention. At the heart of their stories is Alexei Romanov, the heir apparent. Like him, the Romanov boy is a hemophiliac, near the center of a decades-old political cabal. Both children are prone to mischief, self-indulgence and illness. But some insist their connection runs deeper than that.Alexei and the Second Empress is an account of the end of Imperial Russia, told in equal measures fairy tale and cruel realism. It is a story of opulence, folklore, addiction and secrets. And the most profound of those may not come to light without a price.
Check it out here.
Some free stories from Fred Nolan can be found here.
What’s next for you?
As I type it’s April 5, 2020. It is about a month since the U.S. began its various COVID-19 responses. Tomorrow will start my third week working from home, in near-absolute quarantine. My job is secure, my family is healthy. I am working on a book and a play. I am certain both could reach audiences in some form. I hesitate to use the word privilege, but I am in an extremely fortunate position, there is no doubt.
So how, then, would I dare charge for either of these forthcoming works when people are dying alone in hospitals, or struggling for breath in their bedrooms? For all we know, this will be our annual September routine: hospital personnel will be exposed to a horrible contagion without proper equipment; they in turn become sick and then suffer or die alongside their patients. North Texas shoppers will empty supermarket shelves faster than grocers can keep them stocked, and their food bill will be two, three or ten times what the checkout clerks could afford. They will defy shelter-in-place laws and then, on social media, hail police officers as heroes.
In this climate, in which people are contributing so much and receiving so little, it seems a betrayal to charge $16 for a book.
I’ve mentioned this on Twitter at least once, but it bears repeating. I would love to create a Bandcamp-styled web platform for distributing books with a name-your-price option. Bandcamp might already be the best choice: it has an audiobook section and allows sellers to list various merchandise types. But people know Bandcamp for the music, and audiobooks aren’t exactly cheap. Studio time is about $1,000 per 100 pages; double that if you aren’t narrating it yourself. Even if you read your own book in a home studio, you’ll need expensive software and a professional-grade microphone.
So the short answer to your question is this: What’s next is a lot of deliberation. In fifteen years of writing I’ve never had a moment of writer’s block, but my gut-check on the subject of distribution is every bit as crippling as writer’s block.
What a moving and truthful look at the future of our industry, including marketing which is vital for authors. What has worked best for you?
My pre-2020 answer was: Start locally. Let your spouse, parents and loved ones do some of the heavy lifting. Appear on a friend’s podcast. Submit your novel to local book groups. Do readings at a nearby bookstore. A writer can’t live without Twitter, but you won’t sell many books there. To sell more than a few hundred copies, you’ll have to turn the computer off and go do things inherently mortifying to writers.
Today, what constitutes effective marketing is anyone’s guess, and we should cast a jaundiced eye on any headline that mentions a resurgence in reading. I suspect the best a writer can do now is to engage with the reader. Ask them not just what they want from fiction, but what they need from book publishing.
Yes, marketing is anyone's guess and we have to learn what works for our particular brand at a given time. Aside from marketing, what have you learned most through your publishing experience?
Someone is going to intensely dislike your work, and take it personally that you wrote it at all. It will insult them that they read a single page. Never engage with them, there is no sense in both sides of the argument taking things personally.
On the other hand, someone is going to love your work, and for reasons you were not prepared for. They will totally miss your creative intent yet still connect very deeply to the story.
Your favorite of your short stories might never be published, yet the ones you aren’t sure about will almost certainly be published, sometimes nominated for awards. Do your best to fall in love with those works, if for no other reason than someone else has.
Thank you for your time. Please, check out Fred Nolan's book and those free stories (links above).